PEN America Literary Awards PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award

PEN America and the Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater give three awards to playwrights in different stages of their careers. In all three cases, PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater honorees are writers working indisputably at the highest level of achievement. The three awards are for a master American Dramatist, an American Playwright in mid-career with an outstanding voice, and an emerging American Playwright who demonstrates great promise. The awards were developed to reflect Laura Pels’s dedication to supporting excellence in American theater as well as PEN America’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding the playwright’s literary accomplishment.


Luis Alfaro


Luis Alfaro, for his impressive craft, the socially important questions he rises in his plays, and his priceless contribution to contemporary theater, including Oedipus El Rey, St. Jude, and Pico Union.

A Chicano born and raised in the Pico-Union district of downtown Los Angeles, Alfaro has been working in theatre, performance, poetry and journalism since 1982. A multi-disciplined artist, he is also works as a director, curator, producer, educator and community organizer.

Sibyl Kempson


Sibyl Kempson, for her fine craft, intertextual approach, and her body of work including Crime or Emergency and Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag.

Kempson’s plays have been presented in the United States, Germany, and Norway. Her work has received support from the Jerome Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

Mike Lew


Mike Lew, for his original voice, playful sense of provocation, and his body of works including Stockton, microcrisis, and Tiger Style!

Lew is a Tony voter, Dramatists Guild Council member, and recipient of a Mellon Foundation residency, Lark Venturous residency, NYFA fellowship, and the Lanford Wilson, Helen Merrill, Heideman, and Kendeda awards. He is co-director of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, the largest collective of Asian-American playwrights in the country.


Previous Winners

Master American Dramatist

American Playwright in Mid-Career

Emerging American Playwright

2018 Luis Alfaro Sibyl Kempson Mike Lew
2017 Suzan-Lori Parks Tarell Alvin McCraney Thomas Bradshaw
2016 Lynn Nottage Young Jean Lee Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
2015 Tina Howe Anne Washburn Jennifer Blackmer
2014 David Rabe Donald Marguiles Laura Marks
2013 Larry Kramer Kirsten Greenidge  
2012 Christopher Durang Will Eno and Adam Rapp  
2011 David Henry Hwang Marcus Gardley  
2010 David Mamet Theresa Rebeck  
2009 Sam Shepard Nilo Cruz  
2008 Richard Nelson Sarah Ruhl  
2007 A. R. Gurney Naomi Iizuka  
2006 Adrienne Kennedy Stephen Adly Guirgis  
2005 Wallace Shawn Dael Orlandersmith  
2004 Lanford Wilson Lynn Nottage  
2003 John Guare Craig Lucas  
2002 Maria Irene Fornes Tony Kushner  
2001 Richard Foreman Charles Mee, Jr.  
2000 Horton Foote Suzan-Lori Parks  
1999 Edward Albee Paula Vogel  
1998 Arthur Miller Richard Greenberg  



Selection Process

Please note that any playwright, writer, or member of the theater community may submit a nomination for an Emerging or Mid-career playwright. However, a playwright may not nominate his or herself, and candidates of the Master American Dramatist Award are proposed by the judges; nominations are not accepted.

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